The Intelligence – Deuteronomy

The Intelligence

I first heard The Intelligence a while back because I got an album off of Napster or Emusic, where the monthly fee schedule makes it attractive to grab albums that you really aren’t sure will be any good. The album probably received one of those “If you like xxx band, try this one” recommendations. So I tried it. And I liked it a lot. When the new Intelligence CD came to me through DOA, it was a pleasant surprise. I had previously concocted an imaginary history of the band: a forgotten group that cranked out one album of spartan, aggressive post-punk on a doomed label, probably with limited availability and no promotion. If I’d been less lazy I’d have actually looked them up on the web, but I never did.

Deuteronomy has faint whiffs of Swell Maps, Wire’s first albums, and My Dad is Dead (MDID) about it. The music is usually just overdriven guitar riffs with some straightforward drums and bass behind it. However, Deuteronomy is more relaxed and evenly paced than its predecessor. As with MDID, there’s a certain mellowing and diversity that follows the arc of the artist’s output. “Bad Siren” keeps things elemental a la early Wire but has an almost cheery chorus to it. Undercutting anything too bright, though, is the constant (and purposeful) distortion on the vocals. It a hallmark for the band and it always adds something a little sinister and menacing to the tracks.

Another unusually laid-back cut is “Rooms and Bags.” It even swings a little. And “Block of Ice” loops its riff over and over, with nothing to increase the tension but steadily growing distortion on the guitars.

“Sailor Dive,” “Secret Signals,” and “Moon Beeps” all harken back to the Intelligence of old. “Moon Beeps” would probably be the most fully realized composition of the lot: it has an intro, a memorable (catchy even?) verse recalling Gary Numan, and an insistent chorus backed by a single sustained organ-like chord that marks exactly the beginning and end of that section. “Dating Cops,” lasting only a minute and a half, has Pink Flag written all over it. And even though “The Receptionist” has only maracas for percussion instead of driving drums, it’s probably the tune that comes closest to the Intelligence of yesterday.

If you’re tiring of the growing trend toward full-blown, orchestrated indie pop, dig into The Intelligence – whichever album. Deuternonmy isn’t as hit-and-run. Even though it’s more Sunday-drive than drive-by, it does have its moments.